I Hate Fireworks

The New Year brings out this unnecessary urge in humans to set off fireworks. To go out with a bang (dyageddit?). To stand with your gormless faces pointed towards the sky and go “look at awl de pweddy colours!”

Well, sod that. You all look like morons. While you’re all stood in the freezing cold, waiting for some creepy uncle to set fire to Catherine Wheels (that were probably damaged as they fell off the back of the lorry- therefore have an added safety risk), I’ll be inside sulking, warm and protected by entire brick walls from what can only be described as a disaster waiting to happen.

Though it’s not like I can avoid then from inside- is it? They’re LOUD. The first one is always the worst- giving you the fright of your life. Has someone been shot?! HAS A BOMB GONE OFF OR SOMETHING?! No, it was a bloody Rocket that caused you to scald yourself with burning hot tea. And now you have to brew up again. With burnt hands.

And they’re everywhere. Every city in the world had some form of fireworks display to see in 2012. What better way to begin a year than by throwing flaming packets of gunpowder into the air, after all? All those terrified puppies hiding under beds just scream “have a happy new year”!

Fireworks aren’t even that impressive. Once you’ve seen one sparkly thing in the sky, you’ve seen them all. So why year after year, thousands of people line the icy streets to ooh- and aah- them like some excitable pantomime audience, I’ll never know.

Having once had a firework thrown at me (Manchester was tough, growing up), I can reliably inform you that they are as terrifying up close as they are boring at a distance. Hearing one whizz gleefully past your ear to burst into “pretty” sparkles a few feet ahead of you (not surprisingly) certainly takes the shine off how attractive you find them.

In fact, who CAME UP with them? The “entertainment” that can be used as a weapon against pets and teenagers walking through parks everywhere? Who looked into the star-speckled night sky, and thought “that needs more explosions”? Who thought that letting children wave sticks of skin-melting goodness around was a clever and well-rounded idea? An idiot, that’s who.

-In the (attempted) style of http://luvandhat.tumblr.com/

New Year, Working, Travelling, and Me.

Traditionally at this time of the year (the end, in case you’re wondering), people come together to celebrate what a majestic 12 months they’ve just had. Which would be more convincing if people didn’t whinge about New Year’s Eve itself, or if they didn’t spend the day professing what they’ll do differently in the next twelve months.

People don’t enjoy New Year’s Eve for a plethora of reasons- as Alex Turner once pointed out “anticipation has the habit to set you up”, and the hype certainly piles pressure on to have A Good Time. The expense is a massive turn off for many, and the intensely overfilled transport and venue turns what should be a cheery welcome to the New Year into a sweaty, cramped stressful night to forget. Surely, someone, SOMEWHERE is having a fabulous time, following the rules by kissing loved ones at midnight and singing all the correct words to Auld Lang Syne, but whoever this person is will certainly be the envy of thousands of hungover and bruised partygoers everywhere tomorrow morning.

This year, I’m working on NYE. Most people react to this news as though I’ve just confided in them a very embarrassing illness, when really, I’m quite happy to be busy. I love the people I work with, and if I’m lucky I might get a discarded dessert from the kitchen at some point. Plus I’m sidestepping all the fuss of a typical night out, and no mixed feelings of hungover shame or horror at realising how much I spent tomorrow morning. Win-win, really.

Coming up with a resolution can be difficult. Personally, I’m not a smoker, I rarely drink (and when I do, I only need about 3 units…) and I’d be at serious risk of blowing away on a windy day if I lost any weight. Last year, I opted for a “learn new skills” resolution- which has miraculously resulted in a Pass with Merit in Level One Mandarin (hen hao, I know). It feels like cheating to have the same resolution two years in a row, so where does that leave me?

The one thing glaringly absent from my 2011 is travel. Other than a weekend trip to visit some friends at the University of Edinburgh, a week spent at the best friend’s seaside town, and countless train journeys between my student home in York and maternal home in Huddersfield, I’ve been particularly stationary this year.

I spent an entire summer waitressing/cleaning/filing, and have not left the United Kingdom in well over fifteen months. “Wanderlust” doesn’t even come close. My friends who have been on gap years, casually popping to Ghana, hitchhiking or inter-railing around Europe, sunning themselves in all manner of exotic locations, and updating their Facebooks with photos of themselves cheerily scuba diving, hold nothing but my unadulterated envy. While I’m very happy for them all to have had these wonderful experiences, the exotic background of a Manchester industrial park office doesn’t compete, somehow.

Now, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for my experiences; I’ve never eaten as much food in my life as when I waitressed in a Chinese restaurant; and I’ve had plenty of fun discovering the wonderful city of York since I became a student here.  I just quite fancy the idea of rocking up somewhere new, living off the last 10 euros from the bottom of my rucksack, eating bizarre food and not understanding a word of the language surrounding me. Just to see how I’d get on.

So I’ll be eagerly browsing easyjet offers, and comparing reviews on hostelworld.com, and investing in a lovely rucksack to take on my travels. I’ll just spin a globe and jab my finger onto a point, then pack a bag. And now I’ve made this resolution, to travel more, public- I have the added extra embarrassment of people asking me why I’m not globetrotting if I fail, to spur me on. Bring on 2012.


Overdrafts & Being a Bloody "Adult".

Possibly the scariest thing about becoming “independent”, or worse, one of those “adults”, is having complete and utter financial control of your life. It might seem like a riot at first, being able to buy whatever you want, and the pile of beautiful yet impossibly painful skyscraper heels in my wardrobe is the perfect reminder of that. Paying for stuff yourself does make you feel all-growed-up, until you realise that you have to pay for literally everything.

There’s a conversation that every student household has once a winter, which ironically often gets quite heated. The Great Radiator Debate causes plenty of intense discussion; do you have yours on yet? How many hours a day? Did you know that she had it on ALL DAY when she was the only one in? It takes every student simultaneously aback- we have to pay extortionately to be warm. Not only that, our landlords are sending us chirpy reminders that if we don’t have the heating on and the pipes burst, they’ll be more than happy to charge us the repair fee. I blame this and solely this for the rise in Onesies.

And water! You have to pay for water! And it’s bloody expensive, especially when you consider it literally pours freely from the sky daily. When I received my first ever water bill, I felt like sodding it all and just setting up buckets outside. And License Fees! I’ve basically been watching any old rubbish on BBC3 just to make sure I get my moneys worth. And Council Tax! Which, technically, as a student, I am exempt from- but is still a terrifying prospect. I asked for a food hamper for Christmas, and that tin of mackerel is probably the most useful thing I received.

Now, the actual “adults” amongst you may be rolling your eyes gleefully at my pitiful naivety/immaturity, but please spare me. I am in the grips of being in an overdraft, and am currently resenting every outgoing that isn’t iTunes or H&M related.

The first time I went into my overdraft was an accident. I spent about 76p too much in ADSA on my lunch, and having realised this, rang my mum in a pure panic begging her to lend me a quid so I could get out. I don’t know if I was expecting Natwest to turn up and demand I pay them back immediately or else, but everything I knew about overdrafts summed up to one thing: they’re A Bad Thing.

Now, mourning the 76p stage, and coming out of the notoriously pricey festive season, any talk of money depresses me. Rent due? Oh fabulous. Next gas bill? Wonderful. January Sales? You enjoy yourself. I’ll be over here eating my mackerel on stale toast, waiting patiently for my next payday and Student Loan instalment.

Student debt is an inevitable outcome of going to University, I had been warned. But I’ve always been excellent at handling my money. Maybe I thought I’d surpass the whole scary financial aspect. More likely, though, I just forgot to count in bloody bills when designing up my Christmas budget. And now I’m in fear of checking my bank balance, and enormously grateful that Natwest aren’t nearly half as threatening as I originally anticipated. It’s hard to tell who I’m more in awe of; the friends who are sailing through life without even sniffing at their overdrafts, or the friends who are in much more debt and are breezing through their bank statements with a casual laugh and blasé shrug of the shoulders.

 I accept that I’m being a wimp about the whole thing. In fact, I’m glad I’m being so pathetic. Maybe it’s a sign of future sensible fiscal decisions. I’d like to treat it as a bit of a learning curve; the all important life lesson of How to Not Spend Money You Don’t Have. Sounds like a self-help book title. Sounds like one I could have done with reading.


The Yorker Archives… (Movember.)

November brings a lot for us to celebrate; Bonfire night, the Halloween hangover, and premature Christmas adverts. We’re all cosying up in hats and scarves, and for the men amongst us, beards. No Shave November is puzzling. For one month a year, men globally embark on a bemusing mission to grow facial hair. Gilette must be terrified.
No female seems to fully comprehend this new and bizarrely cool trend. One friend of mine sincerely thought “Movember” stood for “not ‘Mowing the lawn on your face’-ovember”. Why November? Why can’t you just buy a scarf? What’s the point?
I’m told that this peculiar tradition, does in fact, have a good cause behind it. According to the official website, uk.movember.com, the millions of people who take part are all participating in one giant mission to raise money and awareness of mens health, and more specifically, prostate cancer.
So what are the repercussions of this hairy cause? Well, for a start, I’d block every male participant on any social network sites if you don’t want to receive millimetre by millimetre updates. But more importantly, I’d get behind the spirit of it all. While I’m not suggesting females all attempt to grow their own beard (by all means, go ahead if you can physically do it…), I am suggesting that you support the cause. Donate! Find your friend who you think will look the most ridiculous, and sponsor his facial fuzz.
The genius of this quirky fundraiser is that it gives lads everywhere an excuse to see what they look like with a fully grown beard, but it also requires no effort whatsoever, so all men can get involved. It raises awareness for a wonderful and often overlooked cause- so girls, I think we’re all morally obliged to deal with it. Stubble-rash from kissing your boyfriend, lengthy discussions about the almost imperceptible growth of your slightly less beardy friends, and the smugness of the friend that discovers that a tash really does genuinely suit him. It’s all for a good cause, ladies.
(Originally published November 10th 2011 http://www.theyorker.co.uk/news/alphamale/7840